At some point on this side of the grave, I may learn to stop regretting all the things I never took the time to study properly in my youth.  This week, I've spent nearly every waking hour trying to learn to think like QuickBooks, once again exposing the gap in my education where some simple business finance belongs.  By very good luck, one of my first clients was very good at explaining the most basic principles of bookkeeping to me, in order to help me decipher a real estate closing statement when we bought our first house.  Once you get used to the idea of debt entries balancing credit entries, it's not too bad--sort of a double vision, from your viewpoint and the view point of the other.  Nevertheless, many aspects of GAAP will likely remain mysterious forever.

In a weak moment recently, I raised my hand for the job of treasurer in the local Woman's Club.  Like many such organizations, it's hard to find people willing to serve as officers every year.  The job of cheerleader or vision developer is decidedly not for me, but I thought I could handle the checkbook.  It turns out that, a couple of years ago, the club acquired a QuickBooks program, so I dived into figuring out how to use this small-business accounting software.

The previous treasurer had confined herself to the checkbook-register functions, keeping the members' running accounts on a separate Excel spreadsheet.  Because this offends my sense of efficiency (i.e., laziness), by requiring the treasurer to enter everything twice, I tried experimenting with the other functions and reading various manuals online.  Soon I broke down and bought a month's worth of tech support by telephone, thus embarking on an exciting half-week of lengthy conversations with nice young people from the Asian subcontinent, most of whom couldn't be brought to understand just how s-l-o-w-l-y they were going to have to talk in order to surmount both the language barrier and my lack of digital and accounting sophistication.  What jobs they must have.

It's a startling pleasure finally to master something like how to collect a bushelful of miscellaneous payments for dues and cookbooks in the form of cash and checks, enter them into each member's account, and tell the program to batch all the payments into a single deposit in a particular bank.  Et voilà!  A deposit entry pops up automatically in the bank register with a "split" to explain all 50-odd individual elements, all properly encoded by type for the summary reports that will be distributed at each monthly meeting.  At the same time, an accounts receivable page shows me who's paid dues and who still owes.  I'll be able to prepare an annual budget and produce monthly budget-vs.-actual reports.  It's becoming clear how double-entry book-keeping brought commercial life out of the dark ages.

I'm still barely using a small corner of this program, which can handle things like payroll that our club doesn't need.  How amazing that such a product is available for about $200.


Grim said...

It's an area I've neglected as well. I can handle personal finances, but organizational bookkeeping is something I've not ever attempted to do. Good to hear that it's not out of range, if I ever wanted to try.

E Hines said...

It's becoming clear how double-entry book-keeping brought commercial life out of the dark ages.

Double-entry bookkeeping, when it was developed, also made embezzlement harder to do and easier to detect. However, as with all arms races, the bad guys have caught up with and surpassed the good guys here, too.

Oh, and that's debit and credit, not debt and.... [g]

Still, Excel does a wonderful job of handling my family's finances.

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

I still think of the categories as debt-vs.-credit from my years of practicing in bankruptcy court--but it's the same thing, really: mirror images of the same relationship.

tyree said...

Thanks for the inspiration. I have never been the bookkeeping type, but I am getting there after almost 60 years of neglecting the subject. It is a sign of progress, I think, that I understand part of what you wrote.

raven said...

Do what you do well- life is too short to learn everything.